Prosecuting Pirates

Even as the remaining Somali pirate involved in last week’s dramatic hostage stand-off with the US Navy has arrived in New York to be put on trial there, further developments in the Indian Ocean have put the differences between the US and European approaches to the problem in stark relief. For last weekend the Dutch military and then the Canadians each captured a number of Somali pirates and then concluded that there was nothing they could do with them but let them go. As the leading Dutch daily the NRC Handelsblad reported in its coverage of the Dutch foreign minister’s visit to Washington at about the same point in time, these episodes contributed to some awkwardness in that encounter with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who noted that such actions were “not a good signal.”

Now according to a further NRC article, it looks like NATO has actually taken notice of Clinton’s remarks and realized that it needs to come up with something to fix this situation. But that NRC report still does not paint what you could call a very reassuring picture. In fact, you could break down its news a follows:

  • The Good: It’s no less than the NATO Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who is reported by the NRC to be determined not only to give NATO’s anti-piracy involvement off the Somali coast a “more long-term character,” but also to make it “more robust,” meaning at the very least the scrapping of this “throw them back” practice. Through his NATO spokesman, De Hoop Scheffer admitted that, up to now, it had been assumed that participating NATO member-states could get by simply with their own national law and the international law of the high seas in their dealings with such pirates. But now that is clearly by the wayside, and efforts are starting to draw up common NATO rules of engagement.
  • The Bad: But there is another problem coming up which might even slightly delay that writing of the new rules of engagement: most of the NATO ships now on anti-piracy watch off of Somalia are shortly due to leave for other missions, mostly official visits to various ports in Asia! So NATO representatives are now meeting to address that problem first and find some replacement ships (or cancel those port-calls) to ensure a continue naval presence there even as pirate attacks show no sign of abating even after the recent successful, and deadly, US hostage-saving action.
  • The Indifferent: Even as those NATO officials meet in Brussels, another conference is now going on there, under the sponsorship of the United Nations. Yes, its purpose is to gather together monetary contributions, mainly towards the cause of getting Somalia back on its feet towards becoming a functioning government again which can finally take action against its own pirate-citizens. The sum of $31 million is supposed to go towards building up the Somali police, and a further $134 as a contribution to the work of the peace-keeping mission, sponsored by the African Union, that is currently in that country.

Long-time €S readers will recall that we’ve covered this whole pirates issue here a number of times before. Viewed from that background, to me the truly mysterious aspect of how NATO currently seems to be fumbling the ball in its approach to the Somali pirates is how inconsistent policy is even among the different NATO member states. Yes, we have fresh examples of the Dutch and the Canadians just throwing back the pirates they caught, but we have also noted here before how the Germans at least are willing to deliver the pirates they catch to the authorities at “a Kenyan port,” which probably should be interpreted as Mombasa. And the New York Times has a useful article up about how – somewhat surprisingly – those Kenyan authorities in Mombasa might very well be both willing and able to prosecute – well, as “able” as the government in a relatively poor African country can be. And there is also European Union money apparently already allocated for the Kenyans to bring their maritime judicial facilities a bit closer to the modern age. In any event, Mombasa is clearly a better option than “throwing them back”; why can’t the Dutch and Canadians avail themselves of it?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.